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Just For Fun

8 Children’s Book Authors Share Their Go-To Parenting Mantras

by Melissa Taylor

Photo credits: Abby Hanlon (© Sophie Elbrick), Adam Rex, Leslie Connor, Marcus Emerson

We all have them. Our go-to parenting sayings, truisms, and mantras. Maybe they were handed down to us from our own parents, are phrases we’ve adopted from friends, or bits of wisdom we picked up from parenting books. Curious what those who spend their days surrounded by words count as their favorite sayings, we asked some of our favorite authors and illustrators to share their most often-used parenting refrains. Read on for wise and pithy sayings from this unique group of parents. (Feel free to plagiarize these truisms and use them liberally.)

“Aim high.”
Picture book author and illustrator Chris Van Dusen credits his dad with this bit of wisdom. Chris repeated it frequently when raising his own sons who are now in their twenties. He says it applies to career goals, personal relationships, and one’s general attitude. “And when you think something is out of reach, just go for it. You might be pleasantly surprised with what you end up with.”

“Now that you know better, do better.”
Edge of Extinction author Laura Martin wants her kids to know that life has a learning curve — that as they learn more and experience more, more is expected. She adds, “When I make a mistake I use the same phrase to explain how I’m going to move forward with my newfound knowledge. No one is perfect, and our kids are no exception, but we can all try to be better than we were yesterday.

“Uniqueness is not a weakness.”
Both Eric Wight, author, illustrator, and cartoonist, and his wife encourage their five children to embrace who they are as individuals. Their hope is that their kids don’t just go along with the crowd but instead develop their own unique voices. Wight says their wish for them is they will be “confident about their individual identity, and make positive decisions for themselves.”

“Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better.”
This line originates from Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes, which Dory Fantasmagory author Abby Hanlon’s first grade class loved. Now that Abby is a parent, she uses this statement at bedtime with her own kids. She explains, “Even though my tendency is to encourage my children to talk through their problems and come up with solutions, I have found that they often need more time to process their emotions. Sometimes it’s better to hold off on ‘the talk’ and simply acknowledge their feelings and offer them a little piece of hope.”

“You can pretend you’re going potty in our shoes at home when it’s just us, but could you please not do it at Grandma’s.”
Picture book and middle grade author and illustrator Adam Rex mostly hopes his 4-year-old boy will stop making bathroom noises in front of Grandma. For obvious reasons. And he’s Adam Rex, so of course.

“Hard work trumps all.”
Leslie Connor, author of All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook and many other books, says she wanted her kids to know to focus on their strengths rather than being limited by perceived weaknesses, and that giving your all is always the best option.

“It’s not that I don’t trust you, I don’t trust everyone else.”
Author of Flower Girl Dreams, Mermaid Tales, and the Bailey School Kids, Debbie Dadey admits that her kids didn’t love this parenting phrase but says it was her go-to truism when her children asked to do something she thought was a bad idea.

“Make mistakes.”
Marcus Emerson, creator of the Diary of a Sixth Grade Ninja series, has four kids ranging in age from 2 to 9. Probably like your kids, his kids make mistakes ALL the time. He and his wife hope their kids understand that mistakes will and have to be made. “Looking forward to those mistakes helps in understanding how to approach things differently.”


How about you? What are your most-used, favorite parenting sayings?